Western Bureau: Englishman Paul Eales holds the early lead at the 2017 Jamaica Open Golf Championship, taming the field at the picturesque Half Moon Course with a superb 4 under-par 68 to sit atop the leaderboard after day one in Montego Bay. His score was one stroke better than James Hazen of the United States, who fired a 3 under-par 69 to complete the round in second position, while three-time champion Johnny Bloomfield and Kenny Goodykoontz are tied for third after stroking 71. Eales, Hazen, Bloomfield and Goodykoontz were the only golfers to break par on a challenging opening day. Eales had three birdies on the front nine and added three more on the back nine for the one-stroke lead. Four others were tied for fifth, including Barbadian Alex Sandeman at Even-par 72, while Orville Christie ended the day as the best-placed Jamaican with a two over-par 74. Two other Jamaicans, Michael Rowe and Wesley Brown, are tied in fourth place on 4 over-par 76 heading into today’s second day. But on another windy day, it was Eales who found his touch early to move away from the field on the front nine before making three birdies on the last six holes to post best score of the round. “The course is in great shape … and I realised that after I birdied the first three holes and although the wind was making it really difficult. I managed to putt well on the green and finish well,” said Eales. “And, of course, the last six holes were something special, and to have round things off with three birdies was just dream stuff,” the 1991 Audi Open winner said. Eales made his move early with two quick birdies and never relinquished the lead. The course record at Half Moon is 7 under-par 65 by two-time Open winner Ross Cochran. Cochran won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. Not concerned about the record, Eales told The Gleaner that he hopes to carry his fine putting form through the championship, while hoping for another fine day on today’s penultimate day. Meanwhile, in the amateur section, Jamaican Owen Samuda had a difficult time on the greens to finish the day with 3 over par 75, holding a three-stroke lead over compatriot Oshae Haye at six over for 78, the same as Canadian Robert Sterling. The championship continues today with the first tee-off time set for 7:30 a.m. Eales will be among the last to tee-off at 11 a.m.
January 20, 2020